Quote of the Day

“The Bush Presidential Library is beautiful, and they have a huge section devoted to weapons of mass destruction, but nobody can find it.” –David Letterman

Quote of the Day

Borowitz on Bush Library

“A George W. Bush Library is like a Mel Gibson Synagogue.” –Andy Borowitz

Sandra Day O’Connor Finally Express Regret Over Her Vote on Bush v. Gore

The Bush years were a disgrace to the United States, including repeated violations of civil liberties, abuses of power, and incompetent governing. If those who defended the American system of democract against the abuses of the Bush years were to look back and choose one moment which was particularly upsetting, the two which would undoubtedly receive the most consideration would be going to war against Iraq based upon lies and the Supreme Court decision which placed Bush in power. Of course all the abuses of the Bush years were made possible by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore.

If the Supreme Court had respected the democratic system, or at least took a consistent view on states’ rights, the outcome isn’t entirely clear. The partial recount which Gore was seeking before the Supreme Court intervened would have still resulted in George Bush winning, but a full recount of Florida would have given the state to Gore. (There were additional problems in Florida such as voters intending to vote for Gore but mistakenly voting for Pat Buchanan due to the format of the ballot, but there was no conceivable remedy for this).  Regardless of what the outcome would have been, the Supreme Court was wrong to interfere with recounts in Florida.

Sandra Day O’Connor, who voted with the 5-4 majority to circumvent democracy, told that Chicago Tribune that the decision may have been wrong:

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor hasn’t given much thought to which was the most important case she helped decide during her 25 years on the bench. But she has no doubt which was the most controversial.

It was Bush v. Gore, which ended the Florida recount and decided the 2000 presidential election.

Looking back, O’Connor said, she isn’t sure the high court should have taken the case.

“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor said during a talk Friday with the Tribune editorial board. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.'”

The case, she said, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation.”

“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

O’Connor, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was the first woman to serve on the high court. Though she tended to side with the conservatives, O’Connor was known as the court’s swing vote. Her vote in the 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision effectively gave Republican George W. Bush a victory over his Democratic opponent, then-Vice President Al Gore.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; S.H.I.E.L.D.; Inspector Spacetime; Community; House of Cards and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; The Americans

Time Wars

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was being hyped as the first blockbuster episode of the spring season of DoctorWho but failed to deliver. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but my exceptions were just too high for what turned out to be a bottle episode. One problem was that there were just too many plot contrivances. To start with the TARDIS was placed in basic mode so that it could be captured. Then how do we explain how the Doctor winds up outside and Clara is lost in the corridors? I might forgive these as necessary to set up the story, but similar problems plagued the entire episode.

The Doctor said not to touch anyone or else time will reassert itself. I have no idea what that means, and feel they are going too far in making up rules for time as they go along. I can forgive contradictions as to whether the Doctor can change events or meet up with his former selves on rare occasions in order to provide for a good story. I didn’t buy Moffat’s explanation as to why the Doctor couldn’t travel back in time to somewhere other than New York and meet up with Amy and Rory, but I’ll let that pass as we know the real point was a farewell episode for the two. Throwing out a new concept of time asserting itself based upon who is touched seemed like pointless and arbitrary timey whimey stuff.  I might have accepted a cosmic reset button to resolve the episode  if the explanation and story were executed better but entire existence of the  Big Friendly Button was rather weak. There were so many other questions, such as why did future burnt Clara attack everyone, and how did getting burnt make little Clara strong enough to take on larger men?


The highlight of the episode was Clara running through the TARDIS. The scene of the TARDIS swimming pool would have been more exciting if we didn’t already know it was coming. This created expectations of more than a quick glimpse. I did like the TARDIS library but The History Of The Time War with The Doctor’s real name sitting out makes it implausible that none of the previous companions other that River Song knew this. This did serve to foreshadow the mystery of the season finale, The Name of the Doctor: “You call yourself ‘Doctor? Why do you do that? You have a name. I’ve seen it.”

I also wonder who would have the knowledge to write this book.  Besides reading this secret, Clara also heard the story of her two other deaths. The memory should be gone after the cosmic reset, but we also saw that from the Van Baalen brothers that not all memories were extinguished. I won’t even get into the nonsense of convincing one of the brothers that he is an android.

As has been common in episodes leading up to the 50th Anniversary, there were references to previous episodes. This included past sounds echoing through the TARDIS. Clara also found the Doctor’s cot from A Good Man Goes To War and the model TARDIS Amy and Mel were playing with in Let’s Kill Hitler. There were other things we have seen before, including a crack in time and (almost) an exploding TARDIS.

Quote of the Episode: “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman: didn’t anyone teach you that?”

Above is the Behind The Scenes video

Next week, Strax, Vastra and Jenny return in The Crimson Horror. Dianna Rigg, whose roles range from The Avengers ( 1960’s BBC series) to Game of Thrones, guest stars. Here is an interview with her. A spoiler-free review is posted here.

The BBC has released the official synopsis for Neil Gaiman’s upcoming episode, Nightmare in Silver:

Hedgewick’s World of Wonders was once the greatest theme park in the galaxy, but it’s now the dilapidated home to a shabby showman, a chess-playing dwarf and a dysfunctional army platoon. When the Doctor, Clara, Artie and Angie arrive, the last thing they expect is the re-emergence of one of the Doctor’s oldest foes. The Cybermen are back!

Gaiman also did a far better job of revealing TARDIS secrets back in The Doctor’s Wife.

Clark Gregg has revealed how Agent Coulson will be brought back in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“In the pilot, it’s revealed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the ultimate super spy, faked Agent Coulson’s death on purpose to motivate The Avengers. Some S.H.I.E.L.D. members were in on it (including, possibly, Maria Hill played by Cobie Smulders) but The Avengers were not. Their security clearance wasn’t high enough. Coulson was forced to hold his breath as part of the ruse and that’s a point of contention among his colleagues After the fact, Fury moved him to a remote location until things died down, and then he was reinserted into duty at the time of the show.”

I was hoping that we’d see Black Widow get in the shower and find Agent Coulson there, Bobby Ewing style.

Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory will be joining the cast of the Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time. This is the web version of Inspector Spacetime with name removed to avoid copyright infringement against Community. Incidentally, Community had its best post-Dan Harmon episode this week with a Freaky Friday storyline. The episode was written by Jim Rash, who plays the Dean and shows he picked up a few things about how the show should be done during the time he has spent appearing on it. Rash is interviewed about writing the episode here.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner showed the above parody of House of Cards, coincidentally the same week in which I completed watching the series on Netflix. The release of all thirteen episodes of the first season provided the advantage of allowing for binge watching. The disadvantage was the inability for blogs to discuss this on a weekly basis coinciding with most people watching as is the case with most television shows. Events became far more compelling in the final several episodes and I did wind up binging on the show this Friday night. Events in the slower-moving earlier episodes do become much more important. On the other hand, the shows leaves open much to talk about and it would have been interesting to read the views of others as the events unfolded.



House of Cards might be seen as a completed story if seen as Frank Underwood going from being bypassed for the Secretary of State appointment to being chosen to become the next Vice President, which Frank wants to use as a stepping stone to the presidency. With filming beginning on a second set of thirteen, many things are still hanging which could jeopardize Frank’s appointment and perhaps lead to even worse consequences. The most serious would be revelations as to how he manipulated Peter, especially if the murder is revealed. Claire’s  legal problems could also create enough of a problem to prevent the appointment, even if the complaint was fabricated. I suspect that ultimately the season will seem more like the first half of a novel.

Initially the series seemed like a more cerebral, political version of Revenge. Later Underwood’s real plan becomes clear. When Underwood first set up Russo’s fall, I assumed it was in retaliation for Peter acting independent of Underwood, threatening to expose past manipulations. Presumably Underwood had planned this from the start, with Peter’s disloyalty  just providing the reason to put the final stages into motion at the time. When Underwood started to wipe his fingerprints off of Peter’s steering wheel I predicted what he would do next, but did it really make sense to murder Peter where security cameras might have shown him come in? Having Peter permanently silenced would be of benefit, but Peter no longer had the same ability to cause harm to Underwood.

My biggest nitpick about the show was the manner in which alliances changed so easily. Frank’s wife betrayed him and then quickly became loyal to their joint goals after returning home (a second way in which Peter’s death was of benefit to Underwood as long as everyone continues to consider it a suicide). More implausible was the degree of loyalty to Underwood showed by the President’s chief of staff in later episodes. I could easily see her performing a few favors for Underwood, even floating his name as Vice President, in return for his favor. It went too far with her actually scheming with Underwood and allowing the release of the secret schedule.

Other changes in loyalties were easier to accept. Backstabbing by underlings such as Remy didn’t come as much of a surprise. Zoe is far more interesting as a reporter digging into what happened as opposed to the slut who got her stories by sleeping with sources. Best of all was seeing Zoe convince Christina to help find out what really drove Peter to suicide. There is no doubt that this House of Cards will start to collapse around Frank Underwood when the series returns now that his earlier actions are becoming uncovered.


The Americans started in a more conventional, weekly format on FX at about the same time as  House of Cards was placed on Netflix. The finale airs this Wednesday, with a preview of the episode here.  It is my favorite new series of this season, centering around two Russian spies who pose as as a married couple during the Reagan era. Their neighbor across the street happens to be an FBI agent. I won’t say more, recommending that those who have not seen the series pick it up from the beginning.

Finally, here are Conan O’Brien and Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

Senate Support For On-Line Privacy Rights

There has been some good news in the Senate regarding on-line privacy rights this week. First, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure to require a warrant for information on line. Current law allows the government to view information held on line for over six months, but it has become far more common to store information on line for extended periods of time since the current law was written. From Wired:

The legislation, (.pdf) sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the committee’s chair, and Michael S. Lee (R-Utah) nullifies a provision of federal law allowing the authorities to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed if the content is 180 days or older.

Under the current law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the government can obtain e-mail without a warrant as long as the data has been stored on a third-party server — the cloud — for 180 days or more. The government only needs to show, often via an administrative subpoena, that it has “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful to an investigation.

Initially, ECPA provided privacy to users, but that privacy protection eroded as technology advanced and people began storing e-mail and documents on servers for longer periods, sometimes indefinitely. The act was adopted at a time when e-mail wasn’t stored on servers for a long time, but instead was held briefly on its way to the recipient’s inbox. E-mail more than 6 months old was assumed abandoned.

“I think Americans are very concerned about unwarranted intrusions into our cyber lives,” Leahy said ahead of the vote.

The bill enjoys backing from a wide range of lobbying interests, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Daily Dot reports that CISPA is probably dead in the Senate, after passing the Republican-controlled House which is less concerned about matters such as civil liberties:

Experts and sources with knowledge of the situation say the most controversial Internet bill of the year, the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), is already dead in the water.

That’s good news for the millions worldwide who have formally registered their opposition to the bill. Designed to help the U.S. fight online attacks, CISPA would make it easier for corporations that are hacked to pass what they know to government agencies—including, critics say, swaths of your private information that would otherwise be protected by law.

But though CISPA resoundingly passed the House of Representatives April 18, “it is extremely unlikely for the Senate” to vote on the bill,” the ACLU’s Michelle Richardson told the Daily Dot.

Finally, I cannot resist giving Andrew Sullivan a link for this post about on-line privacy just because I love the title: If You Give A Browser A Cookie… (For the benefit of readers who have not had small children, it is a play on If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. I also recommend her book If You Give a Moose a Muffin.)

Quote of the Day

“Down in Texas Thursday is the opening of the George Bush Presidential Library and Think Tank. I think he’s in the shallow end.” –Jay Leno

Speaking Favorably Of George W. Bush

Barack Obama and Bill Clinton had a tough job today. Both took office with the difficult tasks of cleaning up messes left by a Bush. Today they had to speak at the dedication for the George W. Bush  Presidential Center. As Peter Baker put it:

It has become an awkward ritual of the modern presidency that the current occupant of the Oval Office is called upon to deliver a generous historical judgment of the previous one. With the opening of each new presidential library, the members of the world’s most exclusive fraternity put aside partisan differences to honor the shared experience of running the nation in difficult times.

It is not an easy thing to say good things about one of the worst presidents in American history, a president who took the country into a war based upon lies, also waged a war on science,  failed to respond adequately to a disaster the magnitude of Katrina, and who crashed the economy. If I was in their position, about the best things I could thing to say about George Bush is that he has ten fingers, breaths oxygen, and has a beating heart.

The Week listed eleven nice things which Clinton and Obama said about Bush today. My favorite was how Clinton turned Bush’s lack of knowledge into a positive comment for the purpose of today’s event:

“I like President Bush. And I like it when we have disagreements. He’s disarmingly direct. We were heaving an argument over health care… and I went on about the German health care system, and he said, ‘I don’t know a thing about the German health care system.’ He probably won the argument.”

There actually are some favorable things to say about George Bush, such as his support for treating AIDS in Africa and not showing the degree of racism and xenophobia which permeates the Republican Party. These are hardly enough considering that we are still struggling to reverse all the harm done by Bush.

Obama’s Republican Outreach

Barack Obama has recently come under attack for failing to use the bully pulpit of the presidency and get some Republicans to support his policies. This includes the op-ed by Maureen Dowd which I mocked and an article in The New York Times which Steve Benen debunked here and here. Barack Obama might not have the skills of Lyndon Johnson but this is also a different era where the rules are considerably different. It is also possible that those who have criticized Obama for failing to reach out to Republicans are unaware of what Obama has actually done.

One Republican Senator which Obama did reach out to (or pander to as David Weigel puts it) was Olympia Snowe:

The benevolent gods of review copies have sent me Fighting for Common Ground, the memoir/jeremiad by former Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. As woe-is-the-Republic texts by retired moderates go, it’s got nothing on 2012’s Arlen Specter offering. There are no tales of obese senators rising, Botticelli-like, from the steam of hot tubs. But it does tell us just how hard the president flop-sweated to bring Snowe into the cloture vote for health care. Snowe recounts a conversation with POTUS after she approved of the Baucus version of reform in committee.

The President also called me after the conclusion of the markup. He began by telling me, “A great statesperson [ed – statesperson?] once said, ‘When history calls, history calls,'” and said I could make history by supporting health care reform when it’s considered on the Senate floor. “You could be a modern day Joan of Arc,” he offered. I laughed and replied, “Yes, but she was burned at the stake!” I added, “I don’t mind taking the heat, but I have to believe it’s the right policy for America.” The President responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there with a fire hose.”

Weigel went on to describe what subsequently happened, with Snowe backing down and failing to support the Affordable Care Act. In this case we had Obama proposing what was essentially an old Republican plan (the Republican response to HillaryCare) and he ultimately failed to get a single Republican vote despite trying  to get the support of the Senate’s most moderate Republican. If he couldn’t get the support of Snowe, it is not realistic to expect Obama to have very much success with Republicans currently in Congress on many other measures.

Incidentally some Republicans still have not given up on fighting their old health care policy now that it was passed by Barack Obama. They are still playing games to try to undermine the program while pretending to have concern about people having difficulty obtaining coverage due to pre-existing conditions. They have given up on this, for now, but we can be certain they will pull something else in the future.

Rand Paul Making Sense On Civil Liberties–But Where Libertarians Go Wrong

Sometimes Rand Paul makes a lot of sense, such as when saying that the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be tried in civilian as opposed to military courts (which many other Republicans have been advocating):

“You know, I want to congratulate law enforcement for getting and capturing these terrorists, first of all, but what we do with them, I think we can still preserve the Bill of Rights, I see no reason why our Constitution is not strong enough to convict this young man with a jury trial, with the Bill of Rights,” Paul (R-Ky.) said on “Cavuto” on Fox Business Network. “We do it to horrible people all of the time: Rapists and murderers, they get lawyers, they get trials with juries. We seem to do a pretty good job of justice. So I think we can do it with our court system.”

If only Rand Paul and other libertarians would stick more to civil liberties issues. Then they would sound much more rational and we would have more in common with them.

I think that one reason Rand Paul and many other libertarians come across as crackpots is the company they keep. The close affiliation between libertarianism and the conservative movement has been disastrous for libertarianism. You can’t mix a pro-freedom philosophy with the views of the authoritarian right and remain consistently pro-freedom (or make much sense).

The Rand (and Ron) Paul form of libertarianism has many of the negative attributes of the far right. In the case of Ron Paul this has included racism, but this isn’t universal to all libertarians who became influenced by conservative views. This also includes support for states’ rights, which opposes excessive government power at the national level but often allows for far more restrictions on liberty at the state level (frequently at the expense of minorities.)

Many libertarians ignore religious liberty while promoting what they would describe as economic liberty. In some cases they are right to oppose unfair restrictions on business and counter-productive regulations. Far too often this really translates into opposing the types of regulation which are necessary for a free economy to work. They believe that markets are something arising from nature which must be left without restrictions, failing to realize that markets are creations of man which only work with a certain amount of regulation. This must come from government, not always Adam Smith’s invisible hand. In the worst cases, libertarianism is used to justify lack of activity against powerful business interests who exploit the pubic or harm the environment. They universally support business over government. While government is not always right in such disputes, when the system is working government provides a means for the public to work in unison against special interests which are too powerful for individuals to take on.

Many libertarians aligned with the conservative movement  have adopted views of the religious right, failing to realize that mixing religion with government is one of the greatest threats to freedom we face.

Libertarians would be much more consistent supporters of individual liberty (as opposed to being opponents of government action on a national level) if they continued their support of civil liberties but also  recognized the importance of separation of church and state, while giving up racism, state’s rights, and a knee-jerk opposition to economic regulation where it is needed. Of course those who hold this viewpoint are better known as liberals.

Rick Snyder Remains In Danger In Michigan

There is still a lot of time until the 2014 election but Republican Governor Rick Snyder is in serious danger of losing. An EPIC/MRA poll released today shows him even with two potential Democratic challengers. Considering the much greater name recognition of the governor, it is not a good sign for him if he is only tied before his potential opponents even begin to campaign:

Even though a big majority of recently polled Michigan voters don’t know who Democrats Mark Schauer and Bart Stupak are, the two politicians are in a dead heat with Gov. Rick Snyder in head-to-head matchups for the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Schauer of Battle Creek and Stupak of Menominee are both former state lawmakers and congressmen, and have been mentioned as potential candidates for governor, although neither has made an official announcement about running.

The poll of 600 people done April 13-16 by EPIC/MRA of Lansing showed that 56% of the people surveyed didn’t know who Stupak was and 75% didn’t know who Schauer was. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

And yet, Schauer holds a slim 39-38% lead over Snyder, while Stupak is a point behind Snyder at 38-39%.

“If they’re running even with Snyder and no one knows who they are, that’s an indication that Snyder is losing support,” said Bernie Porn, EPIC/MRA’s pollster.

The governor’s favorable rating hit a high of 55% in early December. But that was before controversial right-to-work legislation was passed in the raucous final days of the legislative session. Since then, Snyder’s ratings have been slipping. In the April survey, 42% of the people had a favorable view of him, while 46% had an unfavorable view. His job rating was 38% positive to 58% negative.